Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cellular decay, v.2

It was over five years ago that we bought a very out-of-date cellphone. It served us well for about three years. Erin took it with her to Edmonton and Montreal, we used it during our monthly Calgary trips, she took it with her when travelling to and about Calgary on her own, the kids occasionally used it while on road trips with Corazon, and we took it on our weekly trips to Nelson so that we had a contact number as we tried to co-ordinate multiple teens and kids and multiple errands in a single trip often complicated by poor weather.

It never worked at home, because although our area got cellphone coverage a couple of years ago, our phone was part of the wrong network and was too old anyway for the relatively up-to-date 3G service. Then the phone died about eighteen months ago. We were no longer travelling to Calgary every month, so there was no urgent need to replace it.

But now I'm teaching two or three afternoons a week at a place with no phone, and Fiona is ever so tired of being dragged along to spend the time in a chilly, furniture-less spare bedroom because I don't feel good leaving her at home without an emergency contact. Our Nelson trips are getting ever more complicated, requiring two different vehicles shuttling and meeting up and allocating 7 different kids. And closer to home, I would say that at least twice a week some of us end up significantly inconvenienced by the kids not being able to reach me. Either I end up driving around town looking for them, or they end up having to leave activities early or (more often) wait around for an hour or two for a ride at a pre-arranged time. So I've been toying with the prospect of getting another cellphone, one that would also work at home. It would be so nice to be able to say "call me when you're done."

At first I thought a basic 3G flip-phone would make sense. But then I began looking at my other electronics and I realized that they're coming up on being 3, 4 and 5 years old. My iPod classic is functioning fine, but Apple hasn't been updating this model since 2009, and if it ever tanks I'll be absolutely dysfunctional. I use it when teaching, for entertainment during all my driving, to help get to sleep, sometimes during running, and for general entertainment. It's probably used for 2-3 hours a day on average which means it's got more than 4000 hours on it. How many more can I count on? My iPad is also working pretty well, but it's an original and won't run the new iOS, so increasingly I'm finding that I can't run new apps. And it doesn't have a camera; I'm really wishing I had an internet device with a camera that I could use as a teaching adjunct. Right now I have to use a camcorder, plug it into my computer, upload the video, edit it, convert the file, upload to YouTube, set privacy, and email a link to my student. Doing this every week, even just for one or two students, is getting old really fast.

So maybe an iPhone is for me. Erin has had one for a couple of years and loves it. Sophie has had an iPod touch for several years and feels the same. The camera on the iPhone 5 would be a dream for my teaching. And it would be so nice for my family to be able to reach me while I'm not at home and neither are they, which is a lot. I predicted that if cell service ever came to our little town we would probably fall down the slippery slope into reliance on a cellphone for daily life. We've held out for two and a half years but I feel the pull of gravity.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The winter outdoors

The last few weeks have been perfect outdoor recreation weather, and we're taking full advantage of it, especially on skis. Fiona has discovered XC skiing this year, and she's quite a natural at it. She and I have been going out at least a couple of times a week together, exploring various trails in the area. There's a lot of trail-grooming that has begun taking place in recent years, which is nice for me on my whippy narrow track skis. My equipment is 25 years old but holding up fairly well.

It's been fairly cold for our area for much of the past couple of weeks (minus 10 or 12 Celsius) but the sun has peeked out even on the coldest days. That makes all the difference. 

The cross-country trails in Hills afford lovely scenery.

Fiona has joined the Jackrabbits program. Her classmates have been XC skiing for two or three years, but she's keeping up pretty well for a noob.

The snow is so delicious! Here ground hoar has formed at night on sun-warmed hillocks. In the high country, on steep slopes, this will create a serious avalanche risk, but down on the XC flats it's just beautiful.

Homeschoolers are able to join the school ski program. This gives them free skiing and free lessons three Wednesdays in January. There's a nice cluster of homeschooled girls a little younger than Fiona, at a similar skiing level. They get along with the school kids really well too, but have a special chemistry all their own.

Fiona is getting braver and more capable on downhill skis. We don't ski much each year, but this is her third year, and her skills are building. 

I think we're doing really well for physical activity this winter. I'm hardly running at all, I confess: I'd love to be squeezing in three runs every week and it's not quite happening, but that's because I'm doing so much skiing with the kids, Fiona especially. Sophie and Noah are both in the (fairly intense) Fitness program at school, and Sophie has been doing dance and volleyball and PE as well. Noah will be adding Outdoor Education in semester 2, which begins shortly. And Fiona? This week she had gymnastics on Tuesday, downhill skiing all day Wednesday, an hour in the gym on Wednesday evening, PE at school on Thursday, XC skiing for an hour and a half on Friday, plus 90 minutes of swimming at the hot springs the same day, tomorrow she has Jackrabbits, and Sunday she'll likely ski downhill again. It feels wonderful to be getting outside so much in the depths of winter.

Having the right clothing makes all the difference. Really warm gloves, Smartwool socks, goggles, seam-sealed waterproof breathable insulated jackets and pants, the right footwear, polypro as a base layer of clothing, warm hats and helmets. Our equipment is all borrowed or rented, but the clothing is good stuff we spent money on. Comfortable kids are happy outdoor kids.